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Unequality in Education: Oakland High School

Essay by review  •  February 8, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,437 Words (6 Pages)  •  804 Views

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From a structural aspect, Ronald F. Ferguson defends that the inequalities in education between blacks and whites come from the expectations and types of perceptions teachers have on them. These perceptions are extremely biased and Ferguson argues that these expectations lead to the large gap of test scores between black and white students Teachers' expectations and attitude have an influence with the students' own attitude and work habits towards school that perpetuates the large gap of test scores between blacks and whites. (Ferguson 1998: 274) There are three conditions for measuring teacher bias: unbiased teachers who expect blacks and whites to perform at the same level, unbiased teachers who expect students with the same test scores to perform the same regardless of their color, and the last way to measure teacher bias is that they do not judge on past performance but rather look at the untapped potential of students. (Ferguson 1998: 275) According to the criteria for these measures and past studies, Ferguson comes to the conclusion that teachers are biased towards black students because they hold stereotypes and have lower expectations of them. This unfair teacher attitude directly causes them to interact with blacks students differently from white students. According to a study done prior to Ferguson's in a middle class white school, "student inattention was taken as an indication of teacher need to arouse student interest, but the same behavior in a lower class black school was rationalized as boredom due to their limited attention span." (Ferguson 1998: 281) Since these black kids always encounter these bias teachers they begin to fulfill the roles that their teachers expect them to play perpetuating the stereotypes of blacks. (Ferguson 1998: 274) This process is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy and has very negative impacts on black students. Contrary to this belief, black students would be more successful if their teachers held higher expectations of them but they continue to fail because teachers still hold stereotypes and discriminate against them. Ferguson says, "if small effects accumulate, they could make a larger difference over time." (Ferguson 1998: 284) Blacks repeatedly feel these small effects because every year they are forced into a classroom where teachers constantly hold the same stereotypes and low expectations of them as their teachers before. This cycle eventually discourages black kids from going to school and therefore lead them into dropping out. The departure from school depends on when they finally realize the hostile climate at school is to overwhelming.

To further show that race influences students' academic achievement; structuralists Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson introduce an idea of "stereotype threats." These stereotype threats occur when members of a group are negatively affected when they deal with the possibility of being judged stereotypically or by doing something that may perpetuate the stereotype. (Steele and Aronson 1995: 401) What Ferguson says about stereotype threats is that it particularly affects groups that have a history of being stigmatized. Aronson and Steele argue that black students suffer heavily from stereotype threat because they have been afflicted with stigmas of inferiority. They say that blacks who praise their education face pressure from stereotype threats because they can potentially undermine their performance because the pressure that comes with it might force them to not associate with school and lead them to academic failure. (Steele and Aronson 1995: 402) Based on tests by Steele and Aronson, they found out that blacks were conscious of the truth of negative stereotypes about their intellect if their test results were being compared to that of whites. (Steele and Aronson 1995: 422) This belief ultimately led to lower scores for blacks as a whole.

Instead of blaming the structural system of society, Signithia Fordham and John U. Ogbu blame the "black" culture for the inequality in education. They are not directly blaming blacks because the culture and its view on education are a result from the history of discrimination they have endured from white oppressors. Ogbu and Fordham state that black students have mixed feelings about educational success because whites have traditionally refused to acknowledge their ability of high intellect which then causes them to doubt themselves. (Fordham and Ogbu 1986: 177) This belief then began to associate academic success with being a white "thing", which then led to blacks who did succeed be known as "acting white" because higher education was not something associated with their culture. (Fordham and Ogbu 1986: 177) So to stay away from being white, blacks adopted an oppositional collective identity and an oppositional culture that will protect their identity as blacks. (Fordham and Ogbu 1986: 180) This oppositional culture has been glorified through their sense of "brotherhood and sisterhood." (Fordham and Ogbu 1986: 183) Since this culture has been adopted to be opposite of a white culture that values education, blacks hurt them by depriving themselves of an education.

Grace Kao claims that high rates of success among Asians come from family structure and levels of parental involvement. Both of these factors are determined by the Asian culture. Based on other studies, Kao contributes the success of Asians first to the East

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